A Quick Adventure to Connecticut

Travel

A few weeks ago, I did something I haven’t done in over a year: I took some time off from work and I left the state of Virginia. For someone who has literally traveled around the world, it may seem ridiculous to be so excited about leaving the Mid-Atlantic region, but it was a long time coming (also we were avoiding part of cicada season).

I took a Thursday and a Friday off from work, packed up a car with my (retired) parents and we started the long drive up the East Coast to Connecticut. (If you want a full recap of our road choices, my father can inform you; I was asleep in the back seat for most of this.) Why Connecticut of all places? Well, I have deposited at a law school (!!!) located in Hartford, Connecticut and wanted to go for a visit.

Side note: law school is strange because it is a rolling acceptance system. You can be accepted in September when you apply or you can be accepted from the wait list during Orientation Week. So though I have deposited at a school, I don’t know what the summer may bring. As of right now, I’ll be heading to Connecticut, but I also have my options open until I move there.

Our main goals for the trip were to avoid the beginning of the cicadas in the DC area, to see campus, check out a few apartments, and also go on a little vacation. Also my mom wanted to see a beach – it’s the little things in life. We successfully managed to avoid cicadas on our trip. So, one point to us.

We made it up to Hartford with plenty of sunshine left and decided to head to Dunkin Donuts Park for a baseball game. It’s been a while since we sat in the stands for a game, so we really enjoyed the opportunity to watch the Hartford Yard Goats (#NoGoatsNoGlory) and eat some junk food. Our weekend was made great by some beautiful spring weather (something we don’t really get in DC). So we soaked up some Vitamin D while we could and enjoyed the light breeze. Alas, the goats were defeated but it was a pleasant night nonetheless.

Our first stop on Friday was a visit to the law school. Everything is closed down, but I still wanted to stop by. We made a loop through the buildings, peeking in windows when we could, and marveling at how collegiate it felt. We made mental notes of parking availability and the various names of buildings, before we set off for breakfast (at Dunkin of course!).

Our Friday and Saturday were spent driving around the area, exploring Hartford and West Hartford, taking a couple of apartment tours. Previous attempts at organizing a lot of tours for the weekend were foiled and we were too early for most of the apartments that might be available in August, but the driving around and tours we did take were helpful.

The last time I was in Hartford was looking for colleges for my brother – in 2009. We had vague recollections of this park or that building, but if I was planning to move to the city, I needed a little more information. Our drives showed us the variety of neighborhoods and what driving routes would be available. We spotted a couple of places and made notes. We ate at local restaurants, soaking in the spring weather and the vacation vibes we hadn’t seen in over a year. Generally we ate, explored, and enjoyed the nice weather. We also did get a brief chance to visit a beach for my mother, despite there being absolutely no waves and gross seaweed/moss keeping us from dipping our toes in for too long.

And then it was time to drive home. We got a Dunkin on the road home and made it back with no problems (once again, I was asleep in the backseat). By the time we pulled into the driveway, there was a low buzz – the cicadas had awakened in our time away. My father got a nice bike ride in and my mother and I spent the afternoon washing the cars.

Despite the short timeframe, the lack of an apartment lease, and the long-ish drive, I’d call the trip an overall success, but that might just have to do with all the donuts I ate…

Start Somewhere

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As part of my challenge to myself to face my own fear of failure, I’ve encouraged myself to try new things. I emphasize crafts in this pursuit because if I’m bad at it, there’s not a whole lot of fallout. There’s definitely a belief amongst people my age and my generation that hobbies can and should be money making. Time spent on hobbies shouldn’t feel wasted. So many people I know start a hobby and then feel the need to make a YouTube channel about it or open a shop. While that extra cash is nice, it puts pressure on what should be a relaxing side project. Rather than coming home and reading for fun or making a sweater for their cat, there’s a pressure to make profitable projects or create content surrounding that effort. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty that I haven’t posted twice a week or I missed a month’s worth of posts, but at the end of the day, I’d hope that my hobbies (including this blog) are more about flexing that creative (or physical) muscle rather than about getting attention and/or making money.

So I’m telling myself that not only can I try new things without the fear of failure, but I can be bad at them and not have to give up or expect more from myself.

Example #1: Quilting. Over the last year, I started making scrap quilts using my mother’s massive pile of scrap fabric. There’s a few things I like about scrap quilting. One, it’s using scraps and crumbs from other projects – if I mess up, it isn’t a big deal because the fabric is already scrap pieces. Second, I can practice skills I first learned almost two decades ago without fear. Third, because I’m borrowing my mom’s fabric and thread and machine, I only really get to quilt on the weekends; this means that I rest during the week and can spend my weekends enjoying my new hobby or I can skip a weekend without feeling guilt about wasted opportunity. Could I finish a quilt in a weekend? Probably. Do I have to? No.

For me, quilting is nice because I can use it as an opportunity to chat with my mom about our weeks or our favorite fabrics. Each scrap came from a finished quilt and we enjoy rediscovering certain bits and reflecting on what quilt they came from and whether they were donated or not. Starting a skill is a lot less daunting if you have a friend with the skills (or the same interest to learn the skills). Hobbies don’t have to always be solitary activities.

Example #2: Watercolor. When I was in college, one of my jobs was working the front desk of the residence hall I lived in. Because the desk was open all weekend, I often found myself awake at weird times. 4 a.m. wasn’t the best time to follow along with a convoluted tv show or to try and write that paper. Instead, I found a cheap set of watercolor paints at CVS and a thing of watercolor paper. During my shifts, I would listen to music and watercolor. I hadn’t taken a painting class since middle school and I can tell you honestly that despite my best efforts, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t have the patience or the technique or really interest in trying to be better. I found the flow of a paintbrush on paper to be calming. Rather than stress about getting better, I accepted that I am bad at it, but I enjoy it regardless of that fact. I enjoy the fact that I’m a beginner and I may never get past that point – it doesn’t make the relaxation effect any less useful.

Because I’ve accepted my beginner status, I haven’t spent much money on this particular hobby. I’ve acknowledged that no amount of fancy watercolors or nice brushes is going to change what I enjoy about watercoloring and they definitely aren’t going to suddenly make me into Monet. Instead, I’ve avoided that dreaded mistake of over-shopping on supplies for a hobby. I’d rather save my money than overspend on something I might not participate in all that often.

Example #3: Cross stitch. During my Master’s program, I had a bit of free time and went down the Instagram rabbit hole of quirky embroidery and cross stitch patterns. It looked fun and relatively simple. So I hopped on Etsy and found a beginner’s kit for a cross stitch pattern. The kit came with just the essentials and a little video explaining how to cross stitch. It seemed simple enough and I got a cute little cross stitch out of it. When I came back home, I mentioned it to my mother, who of course went through a cross stitch phase and had all the supplies tucked away in the basement. So I made more, trying harder patterns as I grew more confident. I had to remind myself to start with the easy patterns and stitch types. I knew I was just a beginner and I knew I needed to start small and grow.

For all of these hobbies, I had to start at the beginning and remind myself that I was not an expert and may never be one. There’s something nice about focusing less on whether I can one day make a living off my hobby and focusing more on the intentionality of stretching my creative muscles and doing something that relaxes me and brings me joy.

Sometimes You Fail

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For a very long time, I avoiding trying anything new. Starting a new job or a new project was weighed down not by excitement, but about all the “what-ifs”. What if I’m bad at [blank]? What if I embarrass myself? What if this is a mistake I can’t come back from? I try really hard not to linger on the what-ifs of life, but they’re there.

I know my strengths and my struggles and I’ve found in my “adult”hood that I lean into my strengths and work around my struggles rather than working the skills I’m lacking. For instance, I would much prefer to write a blog and reignite my writing skills (strength) than I would create a YouTube channel which would require one of my struggles (human interaction/speaking confidently/extroversion). I take up new hobbies that I’m already somewhat prepared for (quilting, writing, reading, cross-stitch), instead of trying to strengthen a skill I don’t already have (athleticism for example).

Don’t get me wrong, I still fail in the things I think I’ll be good at. For instance, a few years ago, I wrote a blog post about taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I never followed through. Life got in the way. Or I wrote a blogpost recently about making my first quilts. I’ve got the basics down, but you can ask my mom about how useful a seam ripper can be (particularly with pesky triangles). Even within my safety net of strong skills, I can fail.

And it’s scary. Failure sucks. Rejection sucks. (Sometimes being an adult sucks.) But it’s part of life.

Because the last twelve months have been such a mess, I was reluctant to make New Year’s goals this year. Especially if I decided to share those goals online or with friends and then ultimately failed. So I’m not making goals this year.

I’m taking my own advice. When I wrote about NaNoWriMo, I talked about being creative for the fun of it, for the flexing of that side of the brain, instead of for perfection’s sake. So I want to make things this year – both physical, like quilts, and written, like this blog – because it is fun, not because I want perfection. I’m leaning into my what-ifs and saying “Yes, I will fail”. That finished quilt may suck, but at least it’s done. That blogpost may be the worst thing I’ve ever written, but at least it isn’t a blank page. I’m going to try that silly YouTube dance workout, not because I’m ever going to be a Superbowl halftime show performer, but because I like the song. And if one of my neighbors sees me dancing through the window, maybe I’ve provided a spark of entertainment in their day.

Will I fail at this non-resolution resolution? Maybe. But for now, it’s a challenge. And the competitive side of me loves a challenge.

Five Favorite Things: Sweden

Five Favorites, Travel

I’m coming up on five years since I flew to Sweden.

For those who don’t know, I spent six months in 2016 studying abroad just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. My time there allowed me to travel extensively through Europe and enjoy Stockholm from darkness to never-ending light. When I arrived in January, the sun began to set at 3 p.m. and it would be pitch black outside by 4. While this didn’t stop me from taking trips to IKEA or adventuring around European cities like Brussels and Prague, it did put a hamper on my ability to enjoy Stockholm. It wasn’t until later months, when the sun never really set, that I found myself learning to love Sweden and all Stockholm had to offer. I thought I would reflect on my five favorite things about Sweden five years later.

Number one: the mixture of the new and the old. Stockholm, in particular, is a great example of how Sweden mixes the new and the old. Gamla Stan (the old town) is filled with rich history and is right across a bridge from modern style buildings. You could spend hours wandering the narrow streets and feel like you’ve been transported back in time, before stepping across a bridge and eating a hamburger (at Max Burgers) in the modern day. Not far away is The Vasa Museum – a museum dedicated to a failed war ship pulled mostly intact from the bottom of the harbor – located right next to the Abba Museum.

Number two: the smaller cities. I’m not a huge fan of big cities – there’s too many people and too much going on. But the smaller cities that I was able to visit in Sweden were wonderful. Sigtuna, Sweden’s first city, is a small town that is a day trip away from Stockholm. You can spend a day wandering the town, hanging out by the lake, and eating along the pedestrian street. Stockholm is nice, but I really loved my time wondering roads in Malmö and Gothenburg; though not as small as Sigtuna, they offered a reprieve from the big city.

Number three: the public transportation. The biggest thing I miss about Sweden (but also Europe in general) is the public transportation. You can get just about anywhere on a train or bus. Relatively easily (and for relatively cheap) you can go from the suburbs where I lived in Flemingsberg (near Södertörn University) to the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, to Drottningholm Palace to the coolest cemetery, Skogskyrkogården, to the airport. Even when there’s a disruption to the service, you have multiple options that will get you where you need to go.

Number four: the adaptability. Though I might complain about how cold it was in Sweden when I first arrived or about how dark it got at 3 p.m. for the first month I spent there, I loved that the country adapted as needed. Sure you didn’t stay out as late in the winter months, but you still bundled up and powered through – a blanket and a space heater to eat outside and some proper shoes will keep you going. And then just six months later, when the sun never fully sets, you spend as much time outside as possible. I try to keep this adaptability in mind when I’m freezing on D.C.’s one cold day a year.

Number five: the Swedes. So much of my enjoyment of my time in Sweden was based on the very basics of life in Sweden. Things were efficient. People were polite, welcoming, and orderly. Everything was clean. There was an emphasis on living with nature, rather than fighting against it. And everything just felt balanced.

Sweden is definitely on my list of places to return to and explore so more, but I might just do that when it’s summer. I’ve had enough cold, dark days for now.

Living in Excess

london, Travel

Perhaps because I’ve spent too many hours watching The Crown, or perhaps because I’ve just finished reading Rebecca (or more realistically it is probably due to my current existence in a tiny studio apartment), but I’ve found myself reflecting recently on the grand homes and palaces that I have visited over the years. As a kid, the large estates were home to magical boarding schools and princesses, and as an adult they are home to the question “how many clocks is too many clocks?”.

Home to thousands of years of aristocracy and royalty, Europe is filled to the brim with old historic homes. Of course, the Brits are prominently featured in my current entertainment choices, but my appreciate of palaces in England has been mostly via Instagram accounts. I’ve visited a surprisingly small amount of grand estates in the U.K. Without counting the times I stood outside Buckingham Palace‘s gates wondering if the Queen was home or when I walked past the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, the only visit to a home worthy of a period drama that comes to mind was in Brighton. I visited Brighton when I was living in London and my morning was spent in the Royal Pavilion, a strange former palace that brought weird mixes of Asian influences inside its walls.

Another visit included a tour of the Queen’s House in Greenwich with its beautiful spiral staircase. (Many of these grand homes are maintained as museums, allowing you to wander about under the guise of a history lesson, while you’re really trying to decide whether that weird looking panel is a secret door or not.) Unlike visits to cathedrals throughout the U.K., I’ve somehow managed to miss the grand estates so prominently featured in my media consumption.

Scandinavia has provided quite a few palaces over my travels (partially because I spent a decent amount of time there, both alone and entertaining my parents). The question about clocks comes from a tour of a room at the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm – apparently royals run out of gift ideas just like the rest of us! I think its particularly interesting to visit the Swedish Royal Palace because you’re in this grand old building, while daily life is happening just outside the window. There’s no distance between the old and the new – unlike Drottningholm, a Swedish castle on the UNESCO World Heritage list, that’s located further out of the city of Stockholm and still maintains a large grounds and garden around the building.

Copenhagen is home to a pretty good Royal Palace or two, but I really enjoyed venturing a little further out for Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød. The castle is now a museum and is genuinely in the middle of a lake. As if that wasn’t cool enough, it also features a really gorgeous (borderline over the top) chapel. [If you’re bored, please feel free to look up the history of royalty in Scandinavia and enjoy the chaos that is the region’s history. Whether they borrowed a prince after winning their freedom or named every single king some variation of Charles Gustav, Scandinavian royal history is fascinating.]

If you’re looking for over the top, the most extravagant palace I’ve ever visited was outside Paris: Le Château de Versailles. Each room is incredibly stunning and filled with an abundance of history. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Versailles and if you’re a fan of ogling at excesses of wealth or the strange French royals, you will be too. The gardens are so ridiculously over the top and the entire place is a good day trip from the city of Paris. I really enjoyed the Hall of Mirrors (an addition to the earlier question about clocks, “how many mirrors is too many?”).

A friend recently posting on Instagram asking if anyone had been to Asheville and paid to visit the Biltmore. A response she received was that it was a “poor man’s Versailles“. They weren’t wrong. The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina is an American’s attempt at the grandiosity of European estates. If you can’t hop across the pond and want to see the excess of a grand palace in person, this is one of your best bets in the U.S. The tickets are a little pricey, but the tour is interesting just to pretend you could one day be rich enough to own an estate like royalty. Another option in the U.S. that isn’t quite the same is the White House. Visiting the White House on a public tour is less of a “princess running down the hall” experience and more of a “history happened here” experience. When you consider how young the United States as a country is in comparison to most of Europe, our half-hearted attempts can be forgiven, right?

Either way, if you’re going to hoard wealth, you might as well build a grand estate with perfect gardens and an interesting story for me to learn about through an audioguide. Until my bank account catches up, I’ll have to live vicariously through Keira Knightley period dramas and the new Netflix adaptation of Rebecca.

Namaste – Things I’ve Learned From Yoga

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My first semester of college I got really into attending workout classes at my university’s gym. One of the classes that I rarely missed was 11 a.m. Saturday yoga. I had done yoga before, but this class was the first time I regularly practiced and I really found myself enjoying it. Unfortunately, as winter hit and school work piled up, yoga was less of a priority and I lost my motivation.

Since moving back to the D.C. area, I picked up yoga again, attending a class each Wednesday with my mom. Quarantine shifted that class online and instead of one class each week, I’ve started to attend Zoom yoga twice a week. I can tell on Tuesday evenings when it is time for yoga and honestly struggle to keep track of what day it is without these classes. But I’ve also learned a lot through my yoga classes.

The hardest lesson to learn is that everyone starts at a different place. Maybe you’re like me and you watch Instagram yogis doing handstands and complicated twists and you think I can’t do that. And you’re missing that many of those “yogis” are former gymnasts or have been doing yoga for ten years or maybe they’re just genetically gifted. Whatever it may be, I’ve found that the more comfortable I become in my approach to yoga, the less I care about their cool handstands in matching workout sets, and the more I focus on the feeling I get when I finally hold Crow Pose for more than a second. (What’s that inspirational quote about not judging your day one to someone else’s day one hundred?)

In addition to remembering that we all start at difference places, I’ve had to learn that sometimes you just can’t and that’s okay. Though my mother and I share a lot of genes and have generally similar approaches to exercise and yoga, there are moves she can do with ease that I can’t even begin to do and some moves that she can’t do that I can do no problem (despite her longer history with yoga and pilates classes). I’m not one to admit defeat and I generally hate saying that I can’t do something, but sometimes its necessary – both in life and yoga – to acknowledge your limitations. Everyone’s body is different and I can tell you right now that my hips will never allow me to do certain movements without collapsing on the floor in pain.

I guess that’s another thing – it’s okay to push through discomfort, but you shouldn’t be pushing through true pain. If it hurts, something isn’t wrong. I hate Downward Dog because the traditional move kills my wrists. So I modify. And that’s okay. I’d rather modify a move to fit my body than seriously injure myself just to prove a point. This point is pretty applicable to real life as well – sometimes you can push through and sometimes you need to modify.

One of the things I love about my yoga teacher is that she emphasizes that everyday is different. Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow. What you could do with ease yesterday may be the most challenging move you do tomorrow. Or maybe you couldn’t touch your toes yesterday, but today, your palm is on the ground. Sometimes you sleep wrong or you get frustrated or you hydrate a little more than usual and all of a sudden your body changes. No two days are the same.

Another of my favorite phrases from our yoga classes is “to wobble is good“. Whenever we’re in the middle of a balance pose and my legs start to shake or I start to lose stillness, my reaction is to give up. But sometimes the shake or the wobble is just engagement – forcing those muscles to get to work. It’s a thousand times easier to wobble and quit than it is to wobble and find steadiness again. Plus if you find that stillness again, maybe next time you’re just that little bit stronger to tackle the next off-balance moment.

Then comes my least favorite phrase from yoga (and all other areas of life): practice makes perfect. I don’t love the sensation of being bad at things or struggling through; I’d much prefer to be naturally gifted. But unfortunately, my genetics are not made for me to jump up into a handstand or balance on one finger. Over the many, many yoga classes I’ve taken, I’ve noticed that I genuinely have gotten more flexible over time. I am stronger and more patient with each pose that I do. And from the first moment on the mat to Shavasana I see a difference in my muscles and in my thoughts. Over time things balance out, because I’ve pushed through that awkwardness and that discomfort (but not pain!). Trying over and over again, with modifications and patience, has made a huge difference.

And lastly, at the core of it all – breathe through it. All of this wouldn’t be possible without breath. Every wobble evens out with a deep breath; every stretch becomes a little deeper with the exhale.

Now maybe yoga isn’t for you (or maybe you’re like my dad who does “back exercises” instead of a yoga class), but I’ve found the lessons applicable both in yoga and in life – figured they might help you too.

Spooky Season as a Scaredy Cat

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I’m sure if your local stores are anything like mine, you’ve had Halloween candy and pumpkin spice candles on displays since July, but the season doesn’t quite feel right until that first morning when you step outside and get a gust of cold air that reminds you that you are wearing seasonally inappropriate attire. The atmosphere that comes around when the leaves start to change colors and the air gets that nice crisp feeling.

I enjoy fall, but I will happily admit that I am a scaredy cat. The spooky season comes not only with crunchy orange leaves, but with haunted houses and scary movies and all the things that go bump in the night. And I spend much of the season with my hands over my eyes hoping to avoid nightmares.

To enjoy the atmosphere of the spooky season while being easily terrified has become a challenge. I try to only watch scary movies in the middle of the day when all the lights are on and I’ve confirmed the doors and windows are locked. I reach for more atmospheric fair over your classic jump scares. I enjoy films aimed classically at children like Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown. I find my music taste moves away from summer bops to more seasonally appropriate music. And all of a sudden I start craving apple cider donuts.

Most of the time I can avoid the worst of the season – I skip friend’s invites to watch the newest scary show and have a firm line about not venturing to any haunted houses, but sometimes I am convinced (FOMO is real, y’all). One such instance was my first year of college. I told myself to say yes to every opportunity, which is how I ended up on a ropes course and how I ended up a part of a gospel choir.

So when my RA came around asking if anyone wanted to go to a haunted house in one of the campus fraternity houses, I was reluctant. She convinced me by saying that we were going on Wednesday, which was “kids night”, so it couldn’t possibly be too scary. I said alright and signed up. When we arrived, our group of six was led around to the back of the house and sent in. We lined up and held on to each other’s shoulders as we made our way through. I have to apologize to the girl in front of me because her coat had permanent claw marks from when I held on for dear life. It’s not the gory or the gross, and clowns aren’t even that frightening. It was the jump scares of which this particular house seemed fond of. My eyes might have been closed for the majority of the adventure and that breath of fresh air once we left was wonderful. On our way back to the dorm, I joked with one of the people who had run the event that it was awfuly scary for “kids night” to which they replied “Kids night was yesterday”.

My RA didn’t hear the end of that for a few months and I made a friend from across the hall confirm that there wasn’t anyone hiding in my room before I went to sleep for the night. And I haven’t been to another haunted house since.

Will I ever happily watch a scary movie? No. Will I let that keep me from enjoying autumn? Also no. But for now, I’ll avoid cemeteries at night and playing with ouija boards, and instead enjoy a handful of candy corn.

Hanging On To Summer

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I know that the weather will fluctuate over the next month or so, going from classic DC area summer weather to true chilly autumn weather. However, I am not quite ready to give up on my summer yet. You would think that Labor Day would have served as the traditional reminder that summer is over, but it wasn’t until I had to open my sock drawer for the first time in five months that I realized I would soon be transitioning from sandals to snow boots (okay, probably not snow boots, but I couldn’t skip that opportunity for alliteration). So for the next month or so while I can still justify it, I will be pretending it is still summer.

Being an adult is weird because the concept of summer isn’t quite the same as it was during school. Summer is no longer determined by having a designated set of days of relative freedom, but is instead marked by taking full advantage of three day weekends and sunny lunch breaks. I “started” my summer a little late because I was trapped inside working, but I happened to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix and had immediate nostalgia for summertime. The show is good ole trashy fun, but it really reminded me of the perks of summer (when previously I had been focused on the negatives of summer in DC: mosquitos, sweat, humidity, the constant sound of A/Cs running).

I missed that feeling when you’re driving with the window down and you don’t have to rush anywhere. I missed that moment when you stepped in from the heat and the A/C hit you. I missed reading a book outside under the sun. I missed having a cold beverage after an hour spent toasting outside. I missed it all.

Now some of this nostalgia is misplaced. I never spent my summers running around with friends (I was at camp or work or my friends had left the area). Unlike the tan teens of the Netflix show, I burn – my Irish skin and I are meant for the shade, not the sun. And I have spent very few days lounging about on a boat. But the semantics don’t really matter.

I want to spend the next few weeks soaking up any sunshine I can find. And I want to go for drives with no set destination with music playing on my car speakers. I want to listen to the birds chirp and (now that it is less humid) I want to go for late night walks and read a book out on the deck. I want to pretend that life doesn’t start up again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and the biggest worry I have is whether or not I’ve reapplied sunscreen recently.

I mean, I get the love for crisp autumnal days and spooky season, but can I linger in my summer haze for just a few more days?

Halfway Through

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This year, I didn’t really set any resolutions for the new year or for my birthday. Instead, I’m focusing on little mindset changes like reading more and finding joy daily. (I also need to take the LSAT, but that’s a longterm struggle …) The year is flying by and it just occurred to me that we’re (more than) halfway through 2020. This year was kind of lacking in firm plans – I didn’t have any big travel planned, I didn’t have any massive goals that I wanted to hit, I had no plans to move or start a new job. Instead, I was (and am) treating 2020 as a breather before starting to adult more. And by adult more, I am referring to going to law school, saving money, living by myself confidently, etc. So being in the middle of a total mess of a year really hasn’t stopped me from hitting any big goals.

Well, I’ve caught my breath and now I need to set some expectations for myself for the second half of the year:

One: take the LSAT and apply to law school. It’s time; no more procrastinating.

Two: continue reading at the same pace as the beginning of this year. A book or two a month is a baseline goal, but I’ve gotten to the point where four or five books each month is not only appealing, but sustainable for my current routine. (I’ve already smashed my Goodreads challenge out of the park this year, so now it’s time to see if I can double or triple it!)

Three: see the sunshine. Like many folks right now, I’ve spent a lot of time indoors. Without baseball to give me a weekly sunburn and without my daily walks to and from work, I’ve been missing that natural vitamin D. I’m trying to absorb some sunshine so I’m pale as a ghost – lunch breaks include a thirty minute wander outdoors (with sunscreen) and that post-work, pre-LSAT study time includes a nice loop around my building.

Four: stretch everyday. I’ve recently had some tightness in my back that’s probably directly related to me spending all my time on my couch for the last four months, but I’m trying to build the habit of stretching beyond my twice weekly Zoom yoga classes.

Five: write. When life gets a little hectic, the time I used to reflect and write goes down the drain, thoughts linger in my head. To combat this, I’m carrying around a little notebook to write in (even if no one will ever read it) and I’m convincing myself that posting blog posts once a week (ish) will make me feel better. We shall see how that goes…

Basically, what I’m saying is that 2020 has been a bizarre year so far and it’s not looking like it will resolve itself in the next six months. So, I’m asking for the internet’s accountability as I spend the second half of the year taking a breather and pushing myself to do little things that will hopefully be good for me longterm.

The Good and The Bad

Travel

Not every travel experience is great. Sometimes it rains your entire trip or your travel companion sucks or every mode of transportation is delayed. It happens – and when it does you just have to power through and make the most of it.

When I think of some of my favorite and my least favorite travel moments, I am reminded of my trip to London and Edinburgh in the spring of 2016. As one of my many short trips through Europe while I studied in Sweden, the trip included a few days in London, an overnight bus to Scotland, a few days in Edinburgh, an overnight bus back to London, a day in London, and a night in the airport before an early morning flight. As twenty-somethings trying to save money, we thought using our transportation hubs as ways around paying for hostels would be ideal – spoiler alert: it was not.

By the time we took this trip, my friend and I were well seasoned travelers who had learned quickly what was needed and what was not when hopping Ryanair flights around Europe. So fortunately, we only had light backpacks to lug around with us for most of our adventure. The first few days in London were fine, we checked into a hostel that I have no memory of positive or negative, and we explored. (This trip played a huge part in my desire to move to London for grad school a year and half later.)

Then came our trip to Scotland. Due to the travel distance and time restraints, we made a compromise to spend time in Edinburgh and explore the city, rather than spending our time moving from sight to sight. To save money, we chose a night bus, rather than a train or a plane. (We used Rome2Rio to plan our transportation and sometimes it gave us cool routes for cheap and sometimes it failed us.) So, we had an eleven hour bus ride from London to Edinburgh that made quite a few stops on its way up. Unfortunately, as this all occurred at night, we saw nothing outside of the windows. It was freezing and with the frequent stops, the doors opened to let in the outside air regularly. Sleeping wasn’t really an option – and it was eleven hours on a bus. Not ideal.

Then came the great part: seeing Edinburgh. Genuinely one of my favorite cities I’ve visited over the years, Edinburgh is the perfect mixture of old and new. We mostly stuck to the old, because ya know, history, but found ourselves thoroughly entertained. (It was also apparently a very popular place for hen parties – we saw way more bride-to-be sashes than we did kilts…)

We stayed at Castle Rock Hostel, which was one of the best hostel experiences we had, literally within sight of the Edinburgh Castle. We walked everywhere, including on a free walking tour of the key sights. We wandered through Princes Street Gardens and stopped by St. Giles’ Cathedral and Greyfriars Kirkyard (I love a good cemetery), and visited the Scottish National Gallery. We wandered over to the castle, but didn’t go in (though we stumbled upon an exotic car event). We made our way down the Royal Mile to visit the royals at Holyroodhouse.

But our big triumph of the trip involved venturing a little further from our hostel home. We decided to climb Arthur’s Seat. And fortunately, we got good weather for our hike. Unfortunately, it’s a hell of a climb and it was muddy. It was a breath of fresh air.

After such a pleasant time in Scotland, it was time for another eleven hour bus ride (still not fun) and another day in London. Because our flight was early the next morning, we had figured we would skip a hostel and sleep in the airport. Simple, really. Except that meant we had a full day to fill on next to no sleep. Except that meant dragging our bags with us for an entire day after sleeping on a bus. Not great.

To finish a long day of exploring London, we decided to see a show – there was no rush to get to Stansted, so we might as well enjoy our wait. The show was wonderful and we hopped a bus to the airport arriving (unfortunately) after security had closed. So we (and many other like minded travelers) were stuck in the lobby on chairs with individual armrests and a man who paced past the automatic doors every fifteen minutes letting in the cold air. Seemed fitting to round out our trip this way…

We did survive the night and we did get on the plane and we did leave with positive memories (and books written in English bought from the airport bookshop at 3 a.m.!), but we also learned never to take a hostel for granted.